Remembering USA Today founder Al Neuharth

USA Today | Associated Press

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today and former Gannett chairman, died Friday. He was 89.

Gannett CEO Gracia Martore shared memories of Neuharth in a USA Today piece:

“Al was many things — a journalist, a leader, a serial entrepreneur, and a pioneer in advancing opportunities for women and minorities. But above all, he was an innovator with a unique sense of the public taste. … I will miss his counsel, and I will miss the man. But as with all great people, what Al built will live on.”

Neuharth, who died at his home in Cocoa Beach, FL., retired from Gannett in 1989 but continued writing his “Plain Talk” column for years after. Ken Paulson, a former USA Today editor, told the paper Friday: “Neuharth never retired and certainly never faded away.”

In a 1986 video interview with The Poynter Institute, Neuharth spoke about his career in the media:

I don’t consider myself a media tycoon; I’ve been in the newspaper business a long time. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done from the reporter on a very small paper in South Dakota to the CEO of a fairly big media chain.”

Neuharth wrote a book, “Confessions of an SOB,” about how to succeed in the corporate world.

In his interview with Poynter, Neuharth explained why he worked in journalism for so long.

“There’s nothing I’d want to do with my life than to be in the news business,” he said. “I think that gives us a window on the world that you cannot have in any other business or profession.

Here’s the full video interview:

1986 Poynter Institute Interview with Al Neuharth from David Shedden on Vimeo.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Steve Rhodes

    Proposed obit headline: “313,914,039 Of Us Still Alive.”

  • JTFloore

    pretty much everyone in the business knows you didn’t work for a cheapskate gannett paper unless you had little or no choice.

  • Celtic Tiger

    Al Neuharth was an American version of Rupert Murdoch with his own “P.T. Barnum in Las Vegas” approach to quality in journalism. Neuharth, in his own description, was in the business of packaging news to the lowest common denominator of cost and audience. He funded his egomaniacal USA TODAY “vision” by hiding costs through requiring USA staff salaries be funded by their home newspaper. He inflated circulation by deals with hotels and other outlets to give away USA Today or hide the paper’s cost in guests’ bills so they’d think it was free. Gannett chain newspapers have become well-known for editorial positions one notch above high school quality.
    The media landscape has been changing for years, brought on by digital technology’s impact, the Internet, cable and satellite TV and the monopolization by a few mega corporations. Neuharth was smart enough to ride that wave but his “innovations” were in fact minor.

  • Mark Isenberg

    I suppose Mr.Neuharth had good intentions to bring more entertainment and sports news as well as be a daily Reader’s Digest but in not hiring better editors and journalists,we as readers got stuck with poll news features instead of investigations and better federal government coverage even with its Arlington,Va. proximity. It became more famous for its unique design street vending boxes and the paper of choice in hotel lobbies than a quality read. His weekly columns were better than the major news stories but like Larry King,his fifteen minutes of fame ended a long time ago.He was not as bad as Rupert Murdoch but he was more about style than substance and we have lots of local tv news operations that disgrace themselves daily because they have taken the low road approach of USA Today.

  • buckguy

    he’s probably had a more lasting negative effect on print in the US than anyone. The buying and selling of papers and stripping of their newsrooms was his innovation. USAToday didn’t start trying to be a real newspaper until long after he’d left.Print in the US is in much worse shape than in other parts of the world because of him and other buccaneers.